Date: Friday, March 23, 2018
Game Time: 7:07 pm
Venue: CenturyLink Center, Omaha, Nebraska
TV Network: CBS
1. Clemson’s action at the rim
Through their first two tournament games, Clemson has not played the tallest teams available. While Kansas is a guard-oriented team, similar to both New Mexico State and Auburn, Bill Self as size at his disposal.
Kansas’ 7 footer Udoka Azubui has been limited the last two games with a MCL sprain, but he has the potential cause trouble on both sides of the ball.
Clemson’s success in this game will begin with the play of the Tigers’ big men. Both Elijah Thomas and Aamir Simms had three blocks against Auburn, and their defense, along with Mark Donnal, has limited their opponents to shooting just 35 percent from two point range in the tournament.
If Brad Brownell can get offensive production from his big men, Clemson will have a chance. The Tigers however, must shoot better than they did in conference play. Clemson ranked 10th in 2-point FG percentage.
2. Kansas’ scoring abilities battling with Clemson’s suffocating defense
So far in the tournament, the Jayhawks have been very efficient on offense. They are making 50 percent of their shots and moving the ball very well. In their 83-79 victory over Seton Hall, Kansas totaled 18 assists.
Throughout the season and tournament, Kansas continues to move the ball extremely well, yet Clemson’s defense has caught the eye of many following their domination of Auburn.
Bruce Pearl’s Tigers hit just 17 of 66 shots in the 84-53 loss. When pairing their perimeter defense with their shot blocking abilities from Thomas and Simms, Clemson can slow down Kansas’ quick and hot-shooting offensive attack in the Sweet 16.
Through their first two games in the tournament, Kansas has fought two battles. In the Round of 64, they were tested by 16 seed Penn early on, but pulled away late for a 16 point victory. Two days later, the Jayhawks had to hold off a 53 point second half from Seton Hall to win 83-79.
Brad Brownell’s Clemson Tigers were tested in the first round by New Mexico State, yet two days later, they blew past Auburn by 31 points. Clemson’s defense and overall poise impressed many, including me.
I expect a hard fought game from both teams in Omaha and it’s highly unlikely that the Tigers crush Kansas like they did Auburn, but I do foresee a Clemson victory.
Clemson 75, Kansas 71